Skip to Content

The "Passion Principle": Self-Expression, Career Choice, and Occupational Inequality

Description of research project


One of the most common conversations among college students is about choosing an academic major and securing a career path after graduation. This sociological research project seeks to uncover common cultural beliefs about what it means to make “good” career decisions, and how those cultural beliefs might actually help perpetuate gender and class inequality in universities and in workplaces. A dominant cultural narrative that has emerged from this project is what I call the “Passion Principle,” a cultural narrative that elevates self-expression as the most desirable (and perhaps most moral) guiding principle for career decision-making.
I previously conducted interviews with 100 college students at a diverse set of 3 U.S. colleges. The current phase of the project will collect two additional sets of data:


(1) Follow-up interviews with those original college students to ask, where are they now? How has their thinking about career decision-making changed? How do their experiences differ by class, race/ethnicity, gender and/or the school they graduated from?
(2) Interviews with career counselors and career coaches to better understand what cultural narratives they draw upon when advising their clients about career decision-making.
These interviews will be conducted over the course of Winter 2017 semester. The research assistant(s) and I will begin the process of cleaning and coding the transcripts.

Description of work that will be assigned to research assistants (i.e. transcription, coding, preliminary analysis of data, etc.)


The research assistant will engage in a diverse range of tasks, including: cleaning and coding existing interview data, interview scheduling and logistics, and literature reviews.
Interested student should send Dr. Cech the following materials (please add “Interested in SURO” to the subject line):
(1) Resume or CV that includes your major and year in school
(2) A writing sample (preferably an essay or paper from a sociology course)
(3) A paragraph (~300 words) describing what the student hopes to get out of a SURO experience.

- Supervising Faculty Member
Erin Cech


- Contact information
ecech@umich.edu


- Average hours of work per week
3-9 hours/week


- Range of credit hours students can earn
1-3 credits

- Number of positions available

1-2 positions